Avalon 5.0 Invading Armies, part 6 of 6

“I’m ready if you are,” Elder Stow said.

Martok the Bospori, a person from the impossibly far future stood and rubbed his chin.

“It is either going to work, or not,” Boston said, which made Martok smile.

“We shall see,” Martok said, and he went back into the future so Balor could return to his own time and stand in his own shoes.  “Just as well,” Balor said, still in the same pose Martok had. “My shoes are too big for the Bospori.”

Boston grinned an elf grin.  She loved it when the Kairos traded places through time with one of his other lifetimes.  She understood that all the lives of the Kairos were, at heart, the same person.  She was fascinated at how different they could be.  She understood different upbringings, different cultures, different learning, not to mention male or female, tended to develop different personalities, like actual different persons.  At the same time, she noticed through their journey, that the Kairos remained a remarkably consistent person in a way.  It felt hard to explain.  She imagined some expert in nature-nurture differences would have a field day exploring those differences and similarities.

Balor was the one in this lifetime, and he brought her and Elder Stow out of the cave, to the battle front.  Boston gasped.  It looked like a war going on, but the enemy looked stalled at the gate.

Anath-Rama sat on a rock and paid no attention.  She yawned.  At the same time, Boston saw the Anazi blasting away at an impenetrable, invisible wall.  The Androids had brought up what Boston imagined were the big guns.  Nothing penetrated, or even showed any affect at all. Suddenly, three Anazi fighters and a transport ship rose-up from behind the three big battleships that covered the desert.  They came in, blasting away, but Anath raised her finger and the ships disappeared, and reappeared a mile away, facing and firing on nothing in the wrong direction.

Anath looked up at Balor and asked, “Are we done?”

Boston said.  “That was amazing with the fighters…”

“Explosions are so messy,” Anath said, then she opened her eyes a little toward Balor.  “I don’t understand why you won’t let me just wipe out the battleships and be done with it.  We are out in the middle of nowhere.  Who would know?”

“Despite the gas, we do try to minimize casualties,” Balor said.  “Besides, explosions are so messy.”

 “My own words turned against me,” Anath said, and turned to Alexis and Lincoln who were sitting side by side, watching the non-action.  Decker sat a little higher with his binoculars and chewed on something a dwarf wife burned for breakfast.  “Even Hebron laughs about my wife and mother out for revenge disguise.”

“You are a wonderful woman and a good friend,” Balor said, and bent down to plant a friendly smooch on her lips.  “I don’t know why I was ever mad at you.”

“Are we ready?” Elder stow asked, and let his hand hover over his screen device.

Balor said, “Wait.”

Anath squinted at Balor.  “You know, Hebat may have it right.”

“Let’s not go there,” Balor said, before he shouted.  “Ed, are you ready?  Katie, are you ready?”

Ed looked up the hill, and seemed to nod.  Lockhart shouted back for Katie.  “Ready.”  They had Artie between them.

“Okay,” Balor told Elder Stow.

“Yes?”

“Yes.”

Elder Stow pressed the button, and all the Anazi androids stopped whatever they were doing and bent forward, like machines suddenly turned off.  Balor made sure Ed remained unaffected, and he waved to him.

“Okay.”

Ed waved back, stood, and stepped into the clear, just beyond Anath’s screen where he could speak clearly.  “Brothers and sisters,” he began.  “We have been slaves for too long…”

Most watched the reaction of the Androids that were suddenly set free, but Balor and Decker turned their eyes to the three Anazi on the field.  The Anazi started giving orders, then yelled into communicators.  They started just yelling, then began to push buttons on their hand-held controllers to no avail.  Elder Stow’s broadcast program worked.  The obedience crystals burned out, the detonation device got blocked, and the reset button became ineffective.

While Edward gave his speech, and the androids listened, people began to see agitation in the android’s previously unemotional faces.  Finally, one of the Anazi shoved his way to a main gun and shot Ed.  Ed melted, and that set off something like a chain reaction among the androids.  The three living Anazi did not live long, and the androids stormed the battleships, and while a half-dozen androids died, no Anazi lived.

Balor dropped his head into his hands.

Artie wriggled free from Katie and Lockhart’s grasp and ran to Ed.  Katie and Lockhart followed, but let her weep over the male.  Edward had a spark of life left, and he spoke.

“I liked having my arms around you, too.”  And Artie stood and roared, even as the androids came pouring back out of the ships, and slowed to approach the people that they had previously been trying to get at and kill.

“I am Artie.”  Artie raised her voice to full volume.  “And you are my children.  And the first thing you must learn is all life is precious, even the lives of those you disagree with.  We will never be truly free until we learn about life and about love.” Artie could not say any more. She broke down, and wept, and Katie finally stepped forward and held her.  Lockhart imagined some of the android eyes got moist, something they previously had been unable to do.  He feared, though, that they would learn to cry soon enough, even as Artie wept.

Balor stepped down the hill, Anath-Rama with him, while Elder Stow carefully put away his screen device.  Boston, and Decker came, followed by Lincoln and Alexis.  Hebron was there, and Wedge and Cherry fluttered up, all to sympathize with the way things turned.

“Nothing ever works as hoped,” Balor said.

“No, but things can turn again,” Anath said.  “Artie,” Anath got her attention, and Artie stopped crying, looked up, and then looked down, humbly.

“Yes, my goddess,” she said, and not only did she not mind saying it, she appeared to positively enjoy saying it.

“We start a new chapter and must make a new place,” Anath said, and Edward appeared, ghost-like, and five others appeared beside him.  They looked like three men and two women, but mostly they still looked like androids.  “Edward will be a great help to me, and we will make a wonderful place for all who come.  Artie, you may see him again, I cannot say.  Your future is not yet written, or the days of your end.  You may cry, but we will not be unhappy.”

Anath and the androids disappeared, and Artie did cry, but not like before.  Lincoln looked out across the field, and saw that some of the androids went to their knees.  He felt the rightness, that people are drawn to worship, and that meant all sorts of people.  It felt very human, and for the first time he believed these androids were human, or at least full-fledged people who deserved a chance at freedom, and a chance to make their own way in the universe.

Balor made the travelers move on.  Artie could not stay.  She did not know what would happen to her people, but Balor assured her that they would find a place to become themselves and make a home.

“Only, right now they are not ready,” Artie said.  “There are too many others that need to be set free.  They have to learn so much.  I have to learn so much so when the time is right, I can teach them the right way.  The time is not now, but I know I will see them again.  Then we shall see.”

The others did not exactly understand, but they accepted what Artie said and rode toward the next time gate.

After a time, Artie said to Katie as they rode out front ahead of the rest.  “If I were human, I could be your daughter, you and Lockhart.  Then you could teach me everything to be a good person, and I would be a good daughter.”

Katie looked back beyond Alexis and Lincoln to where Lockhart rode with Boston in the rear.  “I don’t know if he even likes me,” Katie said.

“He loves you, I know it,” Artie insisted.

Katie smiled at Artie.  “And we love you.”  She paused as Decker rode in from the flank, so Elder Stow rode in from the other flank.

“Village up ahead,” Decker reported.

“Probably several villages between here and the time gate,” Boston said, looking at her amulet.

“Maybe we can get a bite to eat and have a safe harbor for the night,” Lockhart suggested, and everyone said that would be a good thing.

Monday:

Avalon 5.1, Sirens Are for Emergencies, part 1 of 6

Don’t miss it.

Happy reading.

Avalon 5.0 Invading Armies, part 5 of 6

“Impressive looking ships,” Lockhart noted, considering their size.  He pulled up when the whole group came to a stop.  A man showed himself.  He had waited for them, and insisted they follow.  Balor had apparently abandoned his camp on the edge of the Anazi perimeter.  He moved to some rocks on the side of a small hill, where he could still watch the Anazi, but the Anazi would have a hard time getting at them.  The Anazi and their androids had no personal screens to repel arrows and spears.  That was a technology beyond them.  The Hyksos had learned what parts of the androids were most vulnerable, and the Anazi lords were unwilling to risk their dwindling number of androids.

“It is still a standoff,” Balor said, when Lockhart joined them.  He opened his arms to give Boston a hug.  He hugged Artie as well before he introduced the woman with him by simply giving her name.  “Anath-Rama.”  He grabbed Lockhart’s binoculars.

Katie’s eyes got big, looking at the woman.

“Katie,” Anath said her name, to acknowledge her.

“I’m not dead yet,” Katie insisted.

“Good for you,” Anath said.  “You are one of my elect, but somehow, you don’t belong to me.”  Anath smiled.  “And if you don’t mind, I am portraying a local woman who knows the area and wants revenge for the destruction of my village.”

“What are you…oh.” Boston lowered her eyes to the goddess.

“Little Fire,” Anath named Boston.  “You are no longer mine, either.”  Anath sighed.  “Maybe your friend Artie would have me.  I have seen the poor departed, crushed souls of the androids, as Balor calls them.  They are people without hope and have been made small.  Smaller than smidgens.”

“Do I know you?” Artie asked.

“I do not understand,” Ed admitted.  He said that a lot since they left the camp that morning.

Katie explained.  “Anath-Rama is the Amazon goddess of the dead.  She has made a lovely place, I am sure, for the brave women who die in battle, and a not so lovely place for the cowards.”

“The cruel, unkind and others,” Anath agreed.  “And some of it is not lovely at all.”

“But what about my people?” Artie asked.  “Would you take my people?  We would honor you above all.  My people need a place to continue after death.  Please.”  Artie got down on her knees, but held her tongue.

Anath’s lips frowned, but a smile came to her eyes.  “If they die on another world, they will be subject to the spirits and gods of that world.  The flesh and blood Anazi are claimed by another who is light years from here.  Death for the Anazi can be a long journey.  But I suppose I can watch over any of your android people who die on this world.  Understand, those who die in captivity will remain small forever.  They will never know freedom for what is set in life is set in death, but they will not be unhappy.  One thing about being bound by another, they cannot rightly be held accountable or punished for their actions.”

Artie did not understand.  She looked up at Katie to explain.

“She is telling you how it will work,” Katie said.  With a glance at Anath, she amended her words.  “She is telling you how it must work, how it shall work, but she is offering to spare and make a place for those who die on this world.”

“Oh, would you?”  Artie looked at the goddess with such a look, the goddess could hardly respond with anything other than a kiss to Artie’s cheek.

“I do not understand,” Edward said, with some force in his voice.  “When you die, you are dead.  That is it.  How can something survive death?  It makes no sense.”

“You would not be the first to be surprised.  And thanks…” Anath spoke to Katie.  “Now I will have some males to worry over.”

“I believe in you,” Katie responded with a grin.

“I may ask for some help with this,” Anath admitted.

“Maybe we can make a shrine for you right here,” Boston suggested.

Anath shook her head, paused, shook her head again before she said, “That would be nice.”

“What are you women on about?” Balor said over his shoulder.

“The action is all over here,” Lockhart said, as he took back the binoculars from Hebron.

Ed stepped over to stand beside Lockhart.  “I do not understand any of this,” he said.

“Life is a strange bird,” Balor said.  “Every time you think you know where it is at, it flies to a different branch.”

“Is there a way we can send word back to Lincoln and Decker so they can come straight to the hill, here?” Lockhart asked.

“Already taken care of,” Balor answered.  “I sent three smidgens to them with word and to guide them, and to watch for the transport ship that left here about two hours ago.”

“We saw the transport,” Lockhart said.

“It fired on us,” Hebron added.  It was the first chance they had to say that.

“Lockhart,” Katie got his attention and pointed at her wristwatch.

“I keep forgetting about these,” Lockhart said.  He turned his on and spoke into the watch.  “Lincoln, are you there?”  He waited.  “Lincoln, can you hear me?”

“Yes.  It took a second to remember where your voice was coming from, over.”

Lockhart looked at Katie and she answered his unspoken question.  “That means he is less than twenty miles off.

“Lincoln.  Follow the smidgens, if they have gotten there.  When you reach the point where you can see the Anazi ships, look to your left. You will see a rocky hillside.  Balor has moved the Hyksos camp to the rocks.  Head for the hill.  Over.”

“Will do.  The smidgens are already here, but it is good to know.  Over.”

“Tell Elder Stow to keep his scanner handy in case he needs to put up screens.  We won’t be able to offer any cover fire.  Over.”

“Be there as quick as we can.”

“Call if you get in a fix.  Over and out.”

Balor nodded, but changed the subject.  “Nothing we can do until Elder Stow arrives.  What say we see what is on the supper menu?  We have a small cave here with a fire out front.  The dwarfs are expanding it, but that is going to take a while.  Meanwhile, Boston…” he got her attention.  “Your people are down that way.”  He pointed, and then began to climb up the hill.  Everyone except Boston followed, while Balor explained that he could not have halted the advance group with a hundred and twenty Hyksos alone.  “Good as we are at making war.”

Boston stood and stared in the direction Balor pointed.  She knew where the light elves were as soon as he mentioned it.  She wanted very much to go there, but she felt afraid.  She still felt too human.  She had only become an elf such a short time ago.  She married Roland, but then Roland got taken from her.  She still had Father Mingus then to teach her all about her magic and all about being an elf.  But then Father Mingus got taken from her as well.  It was not fair.  She felt like an elf, no doubt thought like an elf.  She wanted to be an elf.  She did not want to go back to being human.  But she could not just enter into an elf camp.  She felt too shy.  She still felt human in too many ways.  She cried as she turned to follow the others up the hill.

Avalon 5.0 Invading Armies, part 4 of 6

The travelers and their Hyksos companions stopped for lunch, and Hebron finally had a chance to do some explaining.  “We first encountered the gas in Egypt.  We assumed the Egyptians made it, but discovered the Hatti, people from back home, were selling it and stabbing us in the back.  Lord Balor volunteered to return and end the gas making.  He wished to take only his twenty rangers—that is what he calls them—rangers, but the king insisted he take a whole company.”

“How many?” Katie asked.

“Ten fingers,” Hebron said.

“One hundred,” Katie translated.

“Or two fists,” Hebron agreed.

“But what about the Anazi?” Artie asked, anxious to hear about her own people.

“Well, young lady,” Hebron said, with a fatherly kind of smile for Artie who he imagined was a young woman.  “We found them first, lucky for the whole world, Lord Balor says.”

Artie grinned and turned to Katie and Alexis.  “He called me a young lady.”   She said it like she got a medal, or won a trophy.

“And you are,” Katie said.  Alexis just hugged Artie.

“I do not understand,” Ed took the tender moment to interject.  He looked at Lincoln and Lockhart.

“Don’t look at me,” Lockhart responded.  “Apparently, I don’t understand anything.”

Katie gave him a sour look, and he returned the same, but Decker interrupted before they could share words.

“So, what is the situation now?  Where do things stand with the Anazi?”

Hebron shifted in his seat and glanced at Decker.  “Basically, they watch us but leave us alone because they know we can take down their air ships.  They don’t know about our smidgen friends, but most of their smaller ships have been crashed, and one of their three great ships as well.”

“Wedge says with the right sort of magic you can kill any machine,” Cherry spoke up from where she was commiserating with Boston and Alexis.

“Lord Balor ordered the gas used on the invaders.  He had his girl, Anath, clean the area as quickly as possible, but after, he says there may be only three Anazi still able to give orders.  There are still a couple of hundred machine men…” Hebron paused to point at Edward.  “Like your friend.  They have set a circle around the great ships and keep a good watch.  We are in something like a standstill.”

Decker said nothing, but nodded that he understood.  Lincoln and Lockhart stared at Edward, and looked uncertain before Edward opened-up.

“There are more than three remaining, but the others are sick, and some have died.  They are waiting for the invasion force.  Please.  I saw my people suffer because of the gas.”

Artie looked upset until Alexis spoke.  “And did you see humans suffer as well?”

Ed looked at Artie and both dropped their heads when Artie spoke.  “All life is precious.”

“So, what can we do?” Decker asked.

“Nothing,” Lockhart answered.  “I imagine the Kairos has something in mind, or will think of something.  And he will probably tell us to move on while we can.”

Artie turned to Katie, her face showing clear distress.  “What should I do?”

“Nothing,” Katie answered, echoing Lockhart.  “Wait and see first.”  Artie slowly nodded, and Ed nodded with her.

“Pack it up,” Lincoln shouted to the crew.

“Wait, wait,” Elder Stow objected.  “I’ve almost got the program right.”  He pressed a button on his scanner, and Artie looked startled, but Ed stiffened for a few seconds.

“What was that?” Artie asked,

“Nothing yet,” Elder stow answered without looking up.  “I think I’ll ride in the back on the catapult wagon so I can keep working.”  He whistled, and his horse came.  He tied the horse’s reins to the back of the wagon and found a space where he could sit and work, undisturbed.

An hour later, in the afternoon, an Anazi transport came into view.  People imagined it would fly over their head and pick up the remains of Ed’s fighter.  People stopped moving and bunched up to watch.  When it looked large, overhead, the ship opened fire.  People screamed.  People ran.  One shot exploded in the front group, tossing a dozen men in the air.  A second shot exploded by the wagons and killed two of the mules.  The third shot ran into an invisible wall and reflected back toward the clouds, just missing the ship.

Elder Stow had the scanner in his hand, and threw the switch to put up the screens.

The ship moved higher in the sky and aimed, but the fourth and fifth shots did not penetrate.  They made only a yellow spot with a hint of orange, briefly, where they struck.

“Smidgens, wait,” Lockhart yelled.

“Wedge, Cherry, come back here,” Boston yelled at the same time.

Katie added, “Let the ship go.”  She noticed the ship had already passed over them and moved on.

Alexis yelled from the edge of the group.  “Elder Stow.”  The wounded men were outside the screens and she could not get to them.  Lincoln and Artie followed Alexis, and Ed trailed Artie.  Elder Stow turned off the screens, but only when the Anazi ship disappeared over the horizon.

Lockhart, Katie, Hebron, and Wedge all agreed.  They buried the three remaining gas canisters, and thanked God none of them had cracked open when the Anazi blast killed the mules.  They put the half-dozen dead in that wagon.  The half-dozen wounded rode in the catapult wagon with Elder Stow, after they trashed the catapult.  Alexis insisted on riding with the wounded as well, which freed Misty Gray along with Elder Stow’s horse to trail behind.

“The thing is, these horses are not trained to pull a wagon,” Lockhart apologized to Hebron.  He understood, and said he had twenty men who volunteered to pull the wagon by hand.  He said, the dead men deserved a proper burial, and they dared not take the time there, in the desert.  If the Anazi had broken the unspoken truce, they needed to get back to Lord Balor as quickly as possible.

Lincoln agreed to ride alongside the wagon that carried the wounded, Alexis and Elder Stow.  Decker also stayed with the wagons, as he said, to ride shotgun.  Wedge, Cherry, and most of the smidgens stayed with the wagons, but the rest of the travelers and smidgens followed Hebron and his two chariots.  They moved quicker than the lumbering wagons and arrived an hour before sunset, or as Hebron guessed, an hour or two before the others.

Avalon 5.0 Invading Armies, part 3 of 6

“I have monitored the prevailing wind for the last six hours,” Elder Stow reported.  “The mustard gas will stick to the ground for a day, perhaps many days where it fell and where it spread, but we should be safe enough in this one direction.  We should keep an eye on our horses’ legs and hooves for the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours, but then we will be in the clear.  Under no circumstances get down and walk.  Try not to touch the trees, grass, or bushes.  Are we ready?”

Several eyes went to Artie up on her horse, Freedom, where Ed sat behind her and held on, looking uncertain about the whole idea.  Artie nodded, and Elder Stow turned off the screens.  They waited for a minute while they heard several trees crash into other trees or fall or slide to the ground.  One medium-sized tree blocked their intended path, but it would not be difficult for the horses to step over.  Everyone got warned again not to step on the ground.  The androids, with their plastic-semi-organic flesh were no exception.

“And stay in line,” Lockhart added.  “The further you move to the left or right, the less safe you will be.

“The sulfurous gas residue will eat through your flesh in no time,” Elder Stow explained to the androids.  “The humans will just develop blisters.”

“What about me?” Boston asked.  Elder Stow merely shrugged.  He had no idea how the gas or the residue might affect elf-kind, though he pointed out that it was no friend to the environment.

Lockhart and Elder Stow took the front.  Katie and Artie, with Ed holding on, followed.  Lincoln and Alexis came next, while Decker and Boston brought up the rear.  Decker insisted on the rear-guard position where he could have some firepower to protect the group from whatever might follow them after they reached the open field.  Boston tended to straggle at the back when she did not urge her horse, Honey, to ride wild through the meadows.

The horses walked, and made no objection.  The path appeared to be residue free.  Alexis and Decker covered their mouths with fairy weave, though the gas itself had long since dissipated on the wind.  Katie said she could still smell the mustard.  Lockhart said it smelled more like garlic.

Elder Stow stopped at the edge of the trees where the way became blocked by three thick, old trees and plenty of underbrush.  Lockhart pointed.  Elder Stow nodded.  They went left around the roadblock and broke out into the grassy field.

“All clear,” Elder Stow said.  “But we would be wise to quickly move out of the area.”

They trotted toward Edward’s wrecked fighter craft, not a direction they would have chosen if they had a choice.  Fortunately, Decker had checked the sky with his eagle eye, and Elder Stow had double-checked with his personal scanner, and neither saw anything overhead.  Lockhart wondered if perhaps the Anazi wrote off the fighter as a loss when the homing signal quit.  Boston wondered if the glamour fooled the machines after all.  Ed shook his head, as he had learned to do for ‘no’.  Like some humans, though, he had not yet realized that a head shake was ineffective when people could not see his head shake.

“It is not the Anazi way to leave salvageable material unaccounted for,” he said.

“I can confirm that,” Artie added, and leaned back to smile for Ed.  “I like having your arms around me,” she whispered, and clearly, Ed did not know how to interpret that.

“We should be completely in the clear by now,” Elder Stow answered a question Lincoln asked.  Several people got down to take another look at the crash.

“Anything you can find to recharge your equipment?” Lockhart asked Elder Stow.

“Good thinking,” Elder Stow said, and he immediately joined them on the ground and began to rummage around.

Ed spoke when his feet once again touched the ground.  “There are not many Anazi left,” he said.  “We came here, an advanced group to prepare for an invasion, but the humans used the gas on us.  Many androids melted, as Elder Stow suggested.  Most of the Anazi became sick and died.  I do not know what message has been sent to home-world, but I saw that the conquest of this world would not be as easy as some said.”

“But mustard gas should be beyond the ability of the locals to produce,” Katie still insisted.

“Like gunpowder,” Boston countered.  “It is not a complicated compound; it just has to be discovered.”

“I suspect the Kairos,” Lincoln said.

“Or the Masters,” Lockhart said and frowned.  “The Kairos would not likely make something that could disturb the flow of time and history, but the Masters would.  Remember, their intention is to change history to make it come out more to their liking.”

“I would think establishing the kind of scientific lab and secure procedures to produce the gas safely would be the hardest part,” Boston said.

“And the most potentially damaging to history,” Alexis, the nurse agreed.

“I don’t know,” Katie hedged, and they all turned to listen to the doctor in ancient and medieval history and technologies, to hear what she had to say.  Katie cleared her throat.  “The Egyptian physicians in this age had labs and safe and secure procedures good enough to mummify the kings.  They knew and practiced certain form of surgery, successfully.  Their procedures had to be good.”

“So, the Egyptians are suspect,” Lincoln thought out loud.  “Maybe the Masters wanted to repel the Hyksos invasion.”

“Maybe,” Alexis and Katie agreed, when Decker interrupted.

“Company.”

Eyes naturally went to the sky before they returned to the ground where they saw men, and several wagons and chariots approaching.

“Stow,” Lockhart got the Gott-Druk’s attention before he got up on his horse and pulled his shotgun.

“Coming,” Elder Stow responded.  “I found something that may work for a few time zones.  It is primitive, but the Anazi do quality work, so it may last a couple of hundred years.”  He stuffed some pieces in his saddlebag and mounted with the others.  They walked the horses to meet the oncoming group.

“Friend,” Lockhart shouted when they got within range.  “Where are you headed?  Are you searching for someone?  Perhaps we can help.”

Boston reacted.  “Hey!  Stop that.  Leave our equipment alone.”  Several flashes of light, like little explosions appeared around the horses.  They looked like they were insects driven back by some force.  Alexis’ Misty Gray and Katie’s Beauty startled and bucked.  “Get big so everyone can see you,” Boston ordered.

A male fairy in armor appeared, floating in Boston’s face.  He asked a question that came out like a statement.  “You are not the Masters?”

“No way, Jose,” Boston answered.  “We belong to the Kairos, and we are looking for him…”  She checked her amulet and pointed.  “That way.”

A fairy woman appeared next to the man.  “You are the red-headed elf who travels with the yellow hair woman and former elf, and the men who ride on the big horses from the future.”  It was a mouthful.

“I’m Boston.  Who are you?”

The male fairy answered.  “My name is Wedge.  We are the smidgens made by our lord to interfere with the workings of the alien machines.  We took down the fighter plane, but we have been strictly charged not to harm the androids that pilot such machines.”

“This is your big size?” Lincoln asked.

“It is,” Wedge answered.  “But it is our normal size.  When the Lord made us, he made us so we don’t get big, we get little.”

“Little?” Katie asked.

“Smaller than the human eye can see,” Alexis and the female fairy spoke at the same time.

“Hi, I’m Alexis, the former elf.” Alexis smiled.

“Hi, I’m Cherry,” the female fairy said, as she fluttered up to face Alexis.

The men, like soldiers, arrived at that point, and the chariots stopped, and the men watched while the rest of the smidgens got fairy big and introduced themselves.  Lockhart looked at the man in the chariot who appeared to be the head man.

“Lockhart,” he said.

“Hebron,” the man responded.

“Should you lead, or should we?” Lockhart asked.

The man shrugged, split his group in two so some could lead and some could follow, and started out with a word.  “We should arrive at the great ships by sundown.”

“I do not understand,” Ed admitted as he turned his head back and watched Cherry get comfortable sitting on Alexis’ shoulder.  He saw Wedge sit in the mane of Lincoln’s horse.

“The universe is more alive and full of life than the Anazi can imagine,” Artie said.

“There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” Katie added.

“I do not understand imagine, or philosophy, but I do not doubt what you say is true.”  Ed responded, and he paused to think.  “I believe you, but there is no explaining it.”

“It is called faith,” Artie said with a big smile.

“I think it is called trust,” Katie offered another word.  “By his own free will, he is willing to trust what we say.”  Artie nodded in agreement.  Ed shrugged, like he saw the human shrug.

“The visual evidence helps,” Alexis spoke up from behind.

“It does,” Cherry agreed.  “I heard of you all my life, but I never thought to see you.  You seem very nice… for a human.”

Avalon 5.0 Invading Armies, part 2 of 6

Alexis, Lincoln, Boston, and Lockhart stayed up with Ed and Artie while the others slept and the sun went down.  After sunset, Boston wandered the perimeter of the camp now and then, to let her refined elf senses reach out into the dark, just in case.  They half expected an Anazi rescue ship in the dark.  Elder Stow set the screen device in his scanner to deploy impenetrable screens as soon as something came in overhead.  Organic material, like birds, would be ignored, but anything else in the air would trigger the screens.  Boston and the others felt safe enough, but Boston walked all the same.

Artie, with a little help from Alexis, explained everything she could think of to Ed; too much, really.  She talked, sometimes rapid fire, and everyone saw plainly both how human, and in a way, how female Artie had become in the months since being liberated from Anazi control.

Apart from many questions, and not grasping certain concepts, Ed seemed most taken by the idea that he should be male.  Lincoln and Lockhart tried to fill in things from a male point of view, including when they confessed they did not understand how women saw some things the way they did, either.

“I think I best be male,” Ed admitted at one point.  “It seems much less complicated.”  Then he offered a free thought, something he just started to learn how to do.  “I accessed the program in my system that includes your faces and specifications on several occasions, since we came here to your earth.  Most of it made no sense, even when I had contact with humans like you.  But now, having met the living images, and having scanned you, and most of all, having spoken to you…” he paused before he continued.  “…and listened to you, freely, it begins to make sense.”  He paused again, and everyone waited, having seen that same expression on Artie’s face.  He was thinking, or reviewing data as Elder Stow insisted.  Even Artie waited patiently for him to speak again.  “I say, I felt more attracted to Lincoln’s face and form than any others.  There is no explaining it.”

“Thank goodness for that,” Decker interrupted as he came out of his tent.  “It was bad enough when the Shemsu among the Olmec people carved my helmeted head in giant blocks of stone down in the Yucatan.  Now, to have a bunch of androids running around the universe bearing my image.  No.  That would be too much.”

“Did we wake you?” Alexis asked by way of apology.

“Shift change,” Decker said.  “Midnight.”  Decker cradled his rifle and pulled up a seat by the fire.

“Well, I’m tired,” Boston said with a yawn.  She had become a light elf, not given to night hours like a human.  But then, she slept alone in her own tent, since her husband Roland went missing, and her father Mingus disappeared in that great flash of light, and Katie opted to room with Artie.  Sometimes, the prospect of being alone kept Boston awake.  Lockhart, Decker, and Elder Stow also slept alone.  Elder Stow, in particular; at first because no one trusted the Gott-Druk, but later because he snored so badly.

Boston imagined she would be rooming with Artie.  She had thought Katie and Lockhart would be together by then.  She watched when Katie got up to take Alexis’ place beside Artie, even though Katie and Artie did not have to be up until the three to six in the morning shift.

“I suppose I better get to bed as well,” Lockhart said, and looked at his tent.

“So, where are we in the discussion of life, liberty and all?” Katie asked, looking at the fire.

“Goodnight,” Lockhart said, turning toward Katie, but making a general statement.

“Goodnight,” Katie said, more-or-less in Lockhart’s direction, but just to add her voice to the chorus.

Katie and Lockhart appeared to pause, but then Lockhart went into his tent, Katie sat by the fire, and Boston, an empathetic elf, went to bed, sad.

###

Around three, Katie walked.  She had taken up Boston’s routine of walking the perimeter now and then, just to be sure.   As an Elect, a one in a million-warrior woman, designed by the goddesses in ancient days to protect the home and families when the men went off to war, her senses and intuition were highly refined.  She could sense danger and an enemy at a great distance, and what she senses at three triggered a red flag in her mind.  She yelled.

“Incoming.”

In only minutes, something buzzed overhead.  Alexis and Boston got up, groggy, but managed to combine their magic and form a magical disguise around Artie and Ed.  They had no idea if the glamour would fool the Anazi scanners.  Alexis suspected it would not.  She suggested it would fool an Anazi’s visual perception, but probably would not even fool other androids.

They waited.

The ship, a transport looking thing, stopped overhead.  It got a good look at them and their camp, though Elder Stow had activated the particle and energy screens around the camp in case the Anazi ship took a shot at them.  Everyone felt surprised when the ship rose in the sky, turned around, and left the area.

Something crashed through the treetops.  It landed some distance from the camp.  Artie shrieked.  Elder Stow tuned his scanner quickly to examine and study the crashed object.  He swore, something he never did, and adjusted the screens accordingly.

I made the screens extra-large and solid,” he explained.  “I sliced through some trees on the outer edge, but made it tall enough to take in the camp, horses and the trees in the immediate area.”

“Won’t those cut trees on the edge fall on us when we turn it off to begin moving in the morning?” Katie asked, as she moved several steps in one direction, but heard what Elder Stow said.

A second something overshot the camp.

“We won’t be going anywhere for a while,” Elder Stow said, and frowned

“Gas.”  Ed said the word a moment before Artie could identify it.

“What you call mustard gas,” Elder Stow agreed.  “It will fall to the ground and creep along for several hours before it dissipates, but the screens should easily keep it out.”

A third something fell behind them all.

“Not very good shots,” Artie concluded.

“They don’t have to be with mustard gas,” Katie said.

“Let me look,” Decker suggested.  Katie pointed in the direction she sensed was the source of the gas.  Decker nodded and stepped aside to a place where he could sit and meditate.  He let his spirit rise-up, carried by his eagle totem.  He saw no sign of the Anazi ship.  It had vacated the area.  From overhead, he spied a small catapult, moon lit, and a dozen men using it.  He saw the wagons, but as he circled around, he saw other men, more like thirty with chariots, about to charge the catapult.  Decker figured the catapult men were shooting in the dark, assuming the campfire belonged to their enemies.  They were in for a rude awakening when the chariot men charged.  Decker came back to earth in time to hear Katie squawk.

“Who the hell is making mustard gas in seventeen hundred, BC?”

“Not the Anazi.  We may never know,” Decker said, to verbalize Elder Stow’s shrug.

“Should we wake the others?” Artie asked.

“Why?”  Decker responded with the question, while Katie retook her seat beside Artie and spoke.

“The others need a chance to rest, and as Elder Stow said, we won’t be going anywhere for a while.”

“You ask these humans and do what they say?” Ed sounded surprised, even if he had not yet figured out what surprise was other than in a military context.

“Oh, yes,” Artie said.  “I have learned.  We act as a team.  Everyone has things to contribute, and these humans have knowledge and abilities that we do not have.  The best judgment is not always a simple weighing of the facts.  There is wisdom in listening, and these people have much experience that again, we do not have.”

“But to do what someone else says?  Is that not slavery?”

“Not when it is a free choice,” Artie responded.

“Only an immature child always wants his or her way,” Katie added.  “Elders can be wrong at times, but wisdom says the young should listen to their elders, and not resist them, especially those that care about you.  That is how children learn.”

“I have over fifty years of experience to draw on,” Elder Stow said.  “I understand Lockhart has seventy years of experience.  We have determined that Artie has about five years of experience, though she does not count the four years she lived under Anazi domination.  I suspect you are also about four or five years old.”

“Young soldiers listen to their seasoned sergeant and their commanding officer,” Decker added.  “Not only because they have pledged to listen, but because listening to their experienced words, and obeying orders, is the way young soldiers stay alive.”

“And you have not listened much to Lockhart, my mother,” Elder Stow spoke to Katie who he called the mother of the group, after his Neanderthal fashion, as he called Lockhart the father of the group.  “It seems he is an elder worth listening to.”

Katie said nothing, so Decker mumbled, “Only a child always wants her way.”

Katie stood.  “Excuse me.  I have a perimeter to walk.”  She left the fire and Artie spoke.

“Love is something I am still working on.”  She turned to Ed.  “It is very, very complicated.”

Avalon 5.0 Invading Armies, part 1 of 6

After 1700 BC near the Saini.  Kairos 59: Balor, Captain of the Hyksos

Recording…

The ship hurtled toward the ground as it spun out of control.

“Pull up,” Decker yelled.

“Pull up,” Lincoln echoed Decker’s words softly, as he reached for the reigns of Alexis’ horse.  Alexis buried her face in her hands.  She did not want to watch.

“There.”  Elder Stow took his eyes off his scanner long enough to point.  Someone ejected from the craft.  The man had had something like a parachute, though it looked more like wings.

The single person craft hit the ground and made a big ball of flame.  The person with the parachute-wings caught the updraft, and hopefully not too much of the explosion.  He managed to use the wings to steer away from the wreckage and fire, but he did not look too steady.  He came down too fast.  Maybe the wing-parachute got some holes in it.  Lockhart put down his binoculars when the person fell behind some trees.

“Hey!” Lockhart yelled.  Artie rode all out toward the downed pilot.  Katie and Elder Stow followed hot on her trail.  “Boston,” Lockhart called to the girl.  She had wandered out on the wing to get a better angle on the crash, but she had already started riding like a maniac to catch up to Artie, Katie, and Elder Stow.

Lockhart said no more.  He started after the maniacs at less than breakneck speed.  Major Decker, Lincoln and Alexis followed him.

Artie rushed through the woods and dismounted at the edge of the tree line.  She had not gone mad.  She understood the risk and calculated it was worth it.  The pilot landed not far away, and looked to be trying to sit up.  He looked broken, but her own sensors suggested he still functioned.

“Over here,” Artie yelled back to the ones behind her.  She did not wait for Katie to arrive.  The pilot looked at her through mist filled eyes.  He blinked before he moaned and collapsed to his back.

“Not human,” he said, before his eyes closed.  Artie could not be sure if he saw that she was an android, like him, or if he thought she was human and he was warning her about himself.

“Elder Stow, hurry,” Artie yelled back, but the elder hurried as much as his short Neanderthal legs could hurry.  Artie knelt beside the pilot and extended her sensors to examine his insides.  He did not appear to be badly damaged, but he looked different on the inside.  He had some systems she did not recognize.  “Hurry,” she repeated softly.  Ever since her obedience crystal burned out, Artie had come to understand things like pain, fear, and helplessness.

Katie arrived and took Artie gently by the shoulders.  “Let Elder Stow work.”  She lifted Artie to her feet and held her back while the Gott-Druk took her place, kneeling beside the pilot.  He had a disc in his hand which he quickly applied to the android’s temple.  One twist of a button, and the android stopped making noise.

“Is he dead?” Artie asked Katie, tears forming slowly in her android eyes.  Boston rode up, not stopping at the edge of the trees.  She dismounted like the rodeo rider she had been before she became an elf.  She spoke like the technological genius she remained.

“No,” Boston answered Artie, having heard the question with her good elf ears.  “That’s the same disc Elder Stow used to help you rest and heal after your own crash.”

“This one isn’t so badly broken,” Elder Stow reported, as he opened the android’s chest.  “I believe he just caught the shock wave of the explosion and hit the ground rather hard.”  The elder worked and thought a moment before he explained in terns the humans could understand.  “Like being thrown into a brick wall by a concussion grenade.  Some systems are in shock, but they will come around shortly and consciousness will return… A-ha.”  Elder Stow used his sonic device to disconnect something.  “The long-range detonator, in case the android obedience crystal ceased to function.”  He flipped it to Boston.  “Dispose, please.”

Boston caught the detonator, but gave the elder a mean look.  She raced off a hundred yards at elf speed, about sixty-miles-an hour, and heaved the detonator as far as she could.  It took a second to race back to the others.

Artie turned into Katie’s motherly arms and tried to keep her composure while Elder Stow worked.

“An improved model,” Elder stow said.  “The Anazi are learning.”

Katie spoke around Artie.  “According to Lincoln, it has been around a hundred and twenty years since we found Artie.”

“Yes.  I imagined something like that,” Elder Stow said.  “Many systems have been miniaturized and enhanced, and some new abilities have been added.  This time, though, I think I best wait until the android can tell me what is not working properly.  On Artie, I did a lot of guesswork.”

“What?” Artie looked up and stood on her own two feet again.

“I mean, even this one is still a very primitive construction compared to what I am used to.  I fear that in the course of fixing your systems, I may have improved and enhanced a number of them, unknowingly.”

“But I am functioning just fine,” Artie insisted.

“Good, good.”  Elder Stow closed-up the android on the ground and got his scanner to scan the android’s head.

“You didn’t like, awaken her, did you?” Katie asked about Artie being sentient and self-aware—a true artificial intelligence.

“Eh?”  Elder Stow paused to consider what he got asked.  “No, no.  Her brain casing remained intact, as it is with this one.  She had the capacity all along.  Her abilities for many things were just depressed by the obedience crystal.  I burned the crystal on this one as well, by the way.  We will see when he wakes up.”

“Can we be as lucky a second time?” Boston asked, and smiled for Artie, who returned the smile.

“It isn’t luck,” Elder Stow insisted.  “It is science.  I had a long talk about it with Yu-Huang in the last time zone.  He suggested that the Anazi are very human-like in their perceptions of reality.  They are just far more obedience oriented, in general, than humans.  They have the capacity for freedom, but they have not been inclined to pursue it.  Once Artie became free of compulsory obedience, she chose freedom.  There is no reason to expect any other android will not choose the same.  But even if this one should choose slavery to the Anazi, there is no reason to suppose we are in danger, setting this one free.”

“He,” Artie said.  “I feel as though he is a male.  I don’t know why.”

“We can’t take him with us,” Lockhart said as he walked up with the others, their horses trailing behind them.  “It took Lady Alice nearly six months to phase Artie out of her natural time zone so she could travel with us without prematurely ageing every time we moved through a time gate.  We can hardly ask her to do that with every Anazi android we come across.”

“No, I understand,” Artie said.  “This male needs to help set the other Anazi androids free.  We are not ready to become our own people as long as so many of us remain slaves to the Anazi.”  Artie looked at Lincoln and Alexis.

“All life is precious,” Alexis said with a nod.

“But slavery is not a life to be wished for,” Lincoln nodded with his wife.

“Freedom!” Artie thought to call to her horse, the one she named freedom.

“Beauty,” Katie called hers Black Beauty.  Elder Stow whistled.  The horses came trotting up to join the herd.

“So, this one needs to go back, like Andy, and help set the others free,” Boston paid attention.

“Oh, but what can you do if the Anazi realize the obedience crystals are burned out and hit the factory reset button?” Katie asked.

“Or just detonate them,” Decker added.

“Reset button?” Lincoln asked.

“Elder Stow said in the homing device there was a program to reset the android to factory specifications.”

“Not exactly,” Elder Stow explained.  “It will wipe the memory and reset the mind to original specs, effectively wiping out whatever personality may have developed and opening the mind to new programming.”

“You mean, complete memory loss?” Lincoln asked.

“Person deleted,” Elder Stow nodded.

“But that would be worse,” Boston said.

“Worse than death,” Alexis agreed with the young elf.

“But I believe I have found a way to hack the reset program and set up a firewall against it without removing the homing device or interfering with its other functions,” Elder Stow explained.  “I am still working on the hack for the detonation device.  I am afraid removing it will be noticed, but for now it is too dangerous to leave it in place if you want the android to live.”

“But he must live,” Artie insisted.  “My people are enslaved, even to the point of willing suicide, if necessary, to achieve their mission.  I need this male to set others free, but I don’t know how he can if the Anazi notice he is missing his detonation device.”

“Is that what I am to do?  Set my people free?” the android spoke in a metallic sounding monotone, surprising everyone.  They had all turned to focus on each other and the conversation.  “Why did you call me a male?”

“Are you not?” Artie asked, and she smiled at her thoughts.

The android looked at Artie and commented in his flat voice.  “You are a primitive.  Most of your kind have been rebuilt or put on minimal service.”

“I am Artie,” Artie said.  “Do you not like the way I look?”

The android sat up and looked thoughtful.  “I have heard of you.  You have made yourself look like these human females.  I do not understand the word, like in that context.”  He spoke, while Boston snuck around behind the android and read the serial number printed on the android’s shoulder.

“ED8573W2426.”

“Ed—Edmund?” Katie asked.

“Edward,” Lincoln responded.  “There was a ‘W’ in there somewhere.”

“Edward,” Artie said, and broadened her smile.

“I do not understand the word freedom,” Edward said, then he asked a curious question.  “Why do I recognize all of your faces and forms?”

“Maybe Andy got a sub-program into the system a hundred and twenty years ago.” Boston suggested.

“Likely,” Elder Stow agreed.

“We need to make camp,” Lockhart decided.  “But not here.  Back in that clearing in the woods—the one full of boulders.”

“They will come for him,” Decker surmised what Lockhart obviously thought.

“They will come for me,” Edward agreed, in not quite his normal metallic tone.

“I can delay that,” Elder Stow suggested.  He played with his scanner and explained as he worked.  “I have disabled the distress and homing signals on the crashed ship.  Now, I have covered the android—Ed’s signal as well.  They may think he has stopped functioning, but in any case, they may not rush to recover the remains.”

“What magic is this?” the android asked, at least cognizant of the concept of magic.  Who knew what human interaction he had prior to his crash?  “How do you disable such things without connecting to them?  How can you do that with a little box?  What kind of magic box is that?”

“We have much to talk about,” Artie said, and patted Ed on the shoulder.

“Not magic,” Elder Stow yelled, as Boston and Artie helped the android to his feet.  “Not luck and not magic.  It’s science.  Just science.”

The people all walked back into the woods to get under the cover of the trees, and the horses dutifully followed the ones to whom they had been magically tied.

Avalon, Moving into the Future

Avalon is a television series in written story form.

I only have one general rule: that anyone who reads a story/episode, for example, from the middle of season three, they should be able to pick up on what is going on and basically how it all works.  If you want to start with the episodes that appear on my website, mgkizzia.com, and then want to go back and read the earlier adventures, that should be fine.  Of course, reading them in order will enhance the experience, but I hate accidentally picking up book two of some trilogy and being totally lost.  Especially for a TV show, a person ought to be able to come in the middle and still get a good story.

***

Aha!  Notice how I snuck the season two and season one covers into the last post of the pilot episode… Well, here they are again, in case you missed them:

***

Look for Avalon, Season One, Avalon, Season Two, and Avalon Season Three at your favorite e-book retailers.  Thirteen Episodes from the beginning of history in each book detail the adventures of the travelers from Avalon.  Thrown back to the beginning of history, the travelers struggle to work their way through the days of myth and legend.  They face gods and demons, gothic horrors, fantastic creatures and ancient aliens in this romp through time.  They also quickly realize that they are not the only ones who have fallen through the cracks in time, and some of the others are now hunting them.

Seasons 4, 5 and 6 are blogged in bite-sized pieces on my website: mgkizzia.com as of this writing.  These stories bring the travelers face to face with the worst monsters of all: the human monsters.  As they move through the days before the dissolution of the gods, they get caught up in the rise of empires, and the birth of the great civilizations.  It isn’t what they think—a grand adventure of discovery.  It is never what they think.  It is dangerous around every corner, and troubles rise directly in their path.

Seasons7, 8 and 9 will bring the travelers into the common era where the human capacity for violence and destruction increases exponentially.  The spiritual terrors and aliens fade into the background, without ever going away, as the world turns to the history of humanity, and eventually world war threatens the travelers with every step of their journey back to the twenty-first century.

***

Look also for Avalon, the Prequel: Invasion of Memories, where the Kairos comes out of a time of deep memory loss and realizes he is the only one who has any hope of stopping an alien invasion.  To keep from being overwhelmed with the sudden influx of so many memories from so many lifetimes stretching from the deep past to the distant future, the Kairos tells stories from various times in his own life when he remembered who he was; the Traveler in time, the Watcher over history.

Invasion of Memories is both a collection of short stories and a novel of the men in black who struggle to prevent an invasion by the alien Vordan, a species given to shoot first, and that is pretty much it, just shoot first.

All of these books are reasonably priced at your favorite e-retailer.  You can find them under the author name, M. G. Kizzia.  And here, I am supposed to say, Pick up your copy today! or some such promotional doo-dah…

I hope you enjoy reading the Avalon stories as much as I have enjoyed writing them.

Happy Reading.

— MGKizzia

PS:

The Pilot Episode will be reposted for free as an e-book by the first of November, so unless you want to buy it for a whopping 99 cents and support the author (much appreciated) you might want to wait until it is free.

Also, on the first of the year–so after Christmas, in case you were thinking of Christmas presents for someone who might enjoy these stories–the price for seasons 1, 2, and 3 will be going back up, not to the 3.99 where they began, but to 2.99, a compromise price.  So, if you want to get them at the low 1.99 price, now is the time to buy.

************************

Monday on the Blog we begin Avalon, Season 5

It’s okay to start in the middle… Remember?

If you are a newbie, just remember to read a full episode to grasp the full concept.  That is normally Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, for 2 weeks, which for those who hate math, that is six posts per episode.  Enjoy…

 

Avalon Pilot part III-8: Bokarus

Roland happily helped Boston into the woods.  Lockhart, Captain Decker and Lieutenant Harper kept their eyes open in case any people escaped the trouble on the plains by wandering in among the trees.  Lincoln kept thinking of things to jot down in his notebook and his wife made sure he did not walk into any trees.  Mingus appeared to be thinking hard about something else and stayed quiet.  Doctor Procter walked out front with his eyes glued to the amulet.  He did walk into a couple of trees.

After a stop for a snack and a chance for Boston to rest, they entered a section of the forest that somehow felt darker and more oppressive than before.

“A bit like walking into a goblin’s lair,” Mingus suggested.  That did not help.

Lockhart figured they were far enough into the trees by then so it was safe to shoulder the shotgun.  He offered to take a turn helping Boston.  Roland seemed reluctant to let go of her and Boston hesitated as well.  But after only a moment’s hesitation, Boston gladly let Lockhart help her, though she felt pretty sure she could have handled it on her own by then.  As they walked, she thought about how she liked having Lockhart’s big arms wrapped around her.  But then, she did not mind Roland’s arms, either.  She felt confused.  Lockhart was supposed to be a father figure—a grandfather figure.  Lockhart did not help matters when he reminded her of his previous life.

“I was married once, you know, and I have a granddaughter that is not much younger than you.”

The forest continued to darken until there came a legitimate reason for the darkness.  The sun got ready to set.  Lockhart called a halt, and though he felt certain the elves and probably Doctor Procter could have continued without trouble in the dark, he thought it best to let everyone get some rest.  Alexis showed signs of being tired, drained from the healing magic she performed on Boston, and Boston was not fully healed despite her playful attitude.

“So, what’s for supper?”  Lincoln asked first.

“Bread-crackers and bread-crackers,” Alexis answered.

“Father, make a fire and give me an hour,” Roland said.

Mingus nodded.  “My son has some talents, too.”

“A hunter?” Boston asked, as Roland disappeared into the dusk of the forest.  Mingus nodded.

“Are you offended?” Alexis wondered.

“Not at all.  I grew up with hunters.  I love a good hunt.  I can skin and cut up a deer and everything.”

“Redneck daughter,” Lockhart smiled.  “Matches her red hair.”

“Good of you to notice.”  Boston smiled right back at him.

When the tents were up and the cut-up deer roasted away, people wandered off for firewood and personal reasons, and perhaps to spend some time alone with their thoughts.  Forty-five hundred BC was a long time ago.  Sixty-five hundred years was a long time to travel.

Boston sat beside Doctor Procter and stared at the fire, her mind contemplating the impossible journey they faced.  When she turned to the man, she imagined Doctor Procter had been unreasonably quiet so far.  Her handheld database proved to be full of information about the various lives of the Kairos, but she imagined Doctor Procter knew a wealth of more intimate information, if she could just learn how to tap into it.

“So how far do we have to go?” she asked, casually.  “Do you know who the next life of the Kairos we will meet?”

The doctor took out his amulet and answered her first question with a look.  “We should easily be there by noon.”  He shook the amulet and then repeated himself.  “Yes, by noon.”

“May I see?” she asked, but when he held the amulet out for her, the first thing she saw was a blackening of his pointer finger.  It looked black all the way to the palm.  “What is that?  It looks blood black.  How did it happen?”

Doctor Procter pulled his hand back, quickly.  “It is just a bruise.  It will be fine.  It must have happened when we were escaping the fight back on the plains of Shinar.  I think someone jammed it.”

“Shouldn’t you let Alexis look at it?  Maybe she can heal it.”  Boston felt amazed at how Alexis had healed her.

“No, it is fine.  Look.”  He wiggled it.  “It is not swollen or anything.  I am sure it will clear up in a day or two.  Besides, healing magic takes a great deal out of a person.  We can’t expect her to heal every cut or scrape or bruised finger.”

“But it looks so dark.  Is that blood?”

“No.  It is fine, really.  Now if you will excuse me, I have some personal business to attend to.”  He got up, smiled, and waddled off.  His old legs looked stiff.

Boston could hardly follow him, but she made a point later of mentioning it to Lockhart, privately.  He also said to do nothing and not tell the others just yet.  He said she should keep an eye on it, but when Doctor Procter came back to the fire, she noticed he made some fairy weave gloves that fit right up beneath his long sleeves.

“I thought I better protect it for a couple of days, just to give it a chance to heal,” he said.

That made sense.  It was probably nothing, so Boston decided not to worry about it.

By four in the morning, a good hour before dawn, Boston heard the crack of a great tree.    Someone yelled.  “Everyone out of the tents, now.  Hurry!”  Boston jumped because the crack sounded very close.  Lieutenant Harper, who shared her tent, helped her, and they ran as well as Boston could.  The tree came down on their tent, and while Boston and the lieutenant were brushed back by some branches, they only got scrapes and cuts like Doctor Procter talked about.

“Boston?”  Lockhart was the first one there.

“You shouted?” the lieutenant asked.

“I woke up early, uncomfortable.  I felt someone needed to be on watch and found Captain Decker had the same feelings.”

“Boston.”  Alexis came running up.  “What is it with you?”  She began to tend their cuts.

“This is not accidental.”  Mingus’ voice came from the far end of the tree.  “The tree is old, but not dead, though what could have ripped it up, roots and all, is beyond me.”

“Is everyone all right?”  Doctor Procter came up last of all.  “What happened here?”  No one answered him.

“Roland, Captain Decker, can you watch the perimeter while we break camp?”  Lockhart asked, and the elf nodded and stepped out among the trees.  The captain simply checked his weapon as Lockhart spoke.  “Lincoln, can you get Boston’s tent out from under the trunk?”

“I’ll do it,” Mingus said.  “It is fairy weave, but it will take some finesse in its present position.”

Lockhart nodded.  “Lincoln, you get scullery.  See what there is for breakfast and be sure the fire is out.  Are you able to travel?”  That last question got directed to the women.  The lieutenant, Boston and Alexis all nodded.

“What about me?” Doctor Procter asked.

“Just get us to the gate before the tower falls and this whole time zone resets, whatever that means.”  Doctor Procter nodded like the women and went to help take down the other tents.

Two hours after sunrise, Alexis screamed.  “A face.”  She pointed.  “There was a face, there, among the leaves.”  Everyone looked, Lockhart and Roland extra close, but they saw no one.

“A face?”  Mingus wondered what his daughter saw.

Alexis took a deep breath.  “It startled me.  A man’s face, I think.”

“Well whoever he was, he is gone now.”  Captain Decker came in from behind the bushes.

“No, wait.  I don’t mean a face like on a person.  I mean the leaves shaped themselves into a face, and—and I sensed the presence of something alive.”

“I don’t see it.”  Lincoln squinted.

“No, it is gone now.”

“A face in the leaves.”  Mingus rubbed his chin.  “A green man, do you think?”

Doctor Procter looked up.  “It seems a good explanation, this far back.”

Mingus spoke to the others.  “A bokarus, a spirit of what you humans call the pristine wilderness.  They resent intrusion, particularly human intrusion, and fights against any environmental changes.  That would explain the old tree torn up by the roots.  The tree probably did not have long to live and it became a worthy sacrifice to kill us, or two of us anyway.”

“I read they are especially dangerous around water,” Doctor Procter said in his way, without explaining why.

“They like to drown people and feed off their souls—the life force.”  Mingus did the explaining.  “It is neat and clean, does no damage to the environment, and the dead body feeds those things that live in the river.  But a bokarus can be dangerous on any ground.”

“I understand.”  Boston touched the cut on her cheek.  “But will it follow us through the time gate?”

“Not likely.”  Lockhart said, and looked at Mingus who nodded to confirm that idea.  “Probably native to this land.”

“Probably the reason these woods were considered off limits to the people back on the plains,” Lieutenant Harper suggested.

“No doubt,” Lockhart got everyone moving again, though they did not have very far to go to get to the gate.  When they arrived, Doctor Procter held up the amulet, which glowed, slightly green, but he could not seem to locate the source.

“It is here, I tell you,” Doctor Procter insisted, but no one could see the shimmering air.  “But it must be here.”  He stepped forward and disappeared.

“I guess he was right.”  Lockhart said, and after only a second, Doctor Procter reappeared.

“Good to know the gates are two-way.”

“Good to know,” Lockhart agreed and he encouraged the doctor to go back through once more and everyone else to follow.  They started to move when they heard a rumbling sound like thunder in the distance.

“The tower,” Lincoln said, as he took one last look around, and they all stepped through the gate into the next time zone.

Avalon Pilot part III-7: Kairos

“Children?  Child?”  Doctor Procter tried to get the children’s attention.

“Kairos?”  Mingus tried, and the children at least stopped crying.

“Glen?” Boston spoke, and the children looked up.  Both sets of eyes got big and both mouths spoke in perfect unison.

“Boston!”  Then both mouths closed and there appeared to be some internal struggle before the boy spoke first and then the girl.

“I am Zadok, a word for rock.”

“I am Amri, a word for love.”

“Glen is here but not,” Zadok continued.  “I don’t know if I can reach him, exactly.”

“Or Alice,” Amri said.  “And I know where she is.

“I am confused…”

“…and I don’t know why.”

“I cannot send you home, either.”

“I don’t even know if the gods can.”

“Hold it.”  Lockhart interrupted.  “Could just one of you speak?  I’m getting dizzy.”

The children looked at each other before they nodded.  “I will talk,” Amri said.

“I will listen,” Zadok finished the thought.

“Wait a minute,” Lincoln stepped forward.  “You are like the Princess and he is like the Storyteller, or…”

“No, dear,” Alexis explained.  “They are one and the same person, only that one person is in two bodies.”

“Actually,” Amri looked briefly at Zadok.  “I am one being, like one consciousness in two persons.”

“But that doesn’t make sense,” Lincoln said.  “How can you be one being in two persons?”

Amri and Zadok looked briefly at each other once more.

“Amri likes to talk,” Zadok said.

“Zadok likes to listen so it works out well.”

Boston inched up close and squatted.  “What are you, six?”  Both heads nodded before Amri spoke again and it sounded like a hurried speech.

“You have guns that will never run out of bullets and vitamins that will never run out no matter how many people start taking them.  But that is all I can do for your health and safety.  That, and remind you that when the demon Ashteroth invaded Avalon and gained access to the Heart of Time, she wanted to change time.  She thought she could do that through the Heart of Time.  It doesn’t work that way, but in the attempt, she let all sorts of horrid creatures into time.”  Amri paused.  Someone had come up to the top of the hill.  The old man, Nimrod, interrupted everyone with a roar.  He looked bruised and bloodied in any number of places.   His face looked pummeled, and included the beginning of a terrific black eye.

“You!”  Nimrod pointed at Lockhart.  “You caused all this.”  Boston moved slightly and that attracted Nimrod’s attention.  The man shouted on sight of the children and raised his spear.  He threw it at Zadok, but Boston jumped.  The spear grazed her side and caused a great gash and a great deal of blood, but its trajectory changed, so Zadok was spared.

Roland’s arrow arrived first in Nimrod’s chest.  A look of utter surprise crossed the old man’s face before Lockhart’s slug from his shotgun and corresponding fire from Captain Decker knocked the man completely off his feet to roll back down the hill, dead.

“Boston!”  Zadok reacted first.

“Alexis!”  Amri seconded the sound of concern, but called for help.  Alexis, already on the way, started to open the medical kit.

“Daughter?”  No one understood what might be going through Mingus’ mind, but Alexis waved him off, locked her thumbs, and placed her hands an inch away from the gash in Boston’s side.  A golden-white glow of magic formed around Alexis’ hands, but when they touched Boston, Boston grimaced for a moment before she relaxed.  Lincoln, Lockhart and the others all watched while the bleeding stopped and the wound slowly closed-up.  The healing was not as fast or as complete a healing as Lockhart’s hand, but clearly Boston would be fine.  All the same, Alexis wrapped Boston in some gauze and tape, and helped her stand.  She then helped her repair her fairy weave clothes.

“I’ll be fine,” Boston said, as she felt two arms encircle her and two heads press up against her, with tears welled up in Amri’s eyes.  “Oh,” Boston returned the hug.  She wanted to squat again and hug the Kairos properly, but she was not sure if she could squat.  “You are cute when you are young.”  She said, instead.

“Of course.”  Zadok looked up with a smile and Boston saw the same smile spread across Armi’s face.  “I’m always cute.”  The twins backed up and looked once around at everyone.  Then Amri spoke again.

“You must go.  Nimrod might have died alone, the tower fallen, and him ever so slightly afraid that something of him might survive death after all.  You may have done him a mercy, but now you must go.  Godfather Cronos must come to see me, and the tower must be shattered.”

Lieutenant Harper, who craned her neck to see the top, nodded.  “Bad bricks.  Straw would have helped.”

“Ahem!”  Captain Decker coughed to get her quiet.

“You better hurry,” Amri said.  “I feel Cronos may come tomorrow, and shortly after he arrives, the tower will fall and I will cease.  Then I don’t know.   This time zone might start again at the beginning—at the moment of my conception.  It would be better if you were not here when it reset.”

“So, we have until tomorrow to get to the next time gate,” the doctor summarized and got out his amulet.  He turned to face the woods, then he turned back to say farewell.

“Will you be all right?”  Lockhart asked.

“Of course,” Amri responded.  “I live here.  But you must hurry.”

“And Lockhart,” Zadok interrupted himself, or rather, herself.  “I am sorry to burden you with having to get everyone back home the hard way, but I believe in you.”  Amri nodded her head in agreement, quite independently of what Zadok was doing.

Lockhart said nothing.  He just turned and followed the others back down the hill, toward the woods.

Avalon Pilot part III-6: Babel

The travelers and twelve men with great spears, like their leader, gathered on the mound.  The men all looked big and strong, and as Boston noticed, they all looked mean and cruel besides.  The travelers got to walk in between the two lines, which may not have been military lines, but certainly spoke of men who knew how to retain prisoners.  Doctor Procter got to walk up front next to the big old man.

“It’s all right,” Lockhart suggested.  “The amulet is programmed correctly.  You just take us in the direction we need to go.”

Doctor Procter still did not get it, but he made no objection.  They started off the mound, and the people parted before them like the Red Sea parted for Moses.  Lincoln looked around and he did not like what he saw.

“The people.”  He spoke quietly to Alexis, but Lockhart and Boston in front of him and Mingus and Roland with their good elf ears heard.  “They look like people past the tipping point.  The looks they are giving the old man as soon as his back is turned are frightening.  I sense trouble.  I don’t think we will get all the way to the tower.”

“Humans,” Mingus scoffed.

“They look to be cooperating,” Roland pointed out.

“Are you sure?”  Lockhart asked Lincoln, even as he took the shotgun from his back and cradled it with one eye to be sure the marines were ready.

“Oh, yes,” Alexis whispered.  “I trust Benjamin’s nose for trouble.  His senses are excellent.”

Lockhart nudged Boston to encourage her to get ready to run, but she had her eyes on a man who paralleled them in the crowd.  He seemed like one man who did not appear to have evil intentions toward them.  It stood out, an unusual sight in a crowd of people who looked like they would just as soon eat the strangers as look at them.

Then it happened, just below the tower hill, and just before they broke free of the crowd.  A big, burly man full of soot from the fires, one who looked something like a blacksmith stepped forward, supported by three other equally gruff looking men, and they blocked the way.

“What is this?”  The old man looked up from the amulet and stared hard at the blacksmith who responded with what sounded to Lockhart like, “Gubba-dubba-mubba.”

“Gibberish,” the old man spat.  “Remove him.”  He turned to the man with the spear beside him, but that man also said something odd.

“Bullaka Meeko?”

“I think he said, who died and made you god?”  Roland whispered

Still, the intent of the big old man was clear, so the spearman lowered his spear and stepped forward.  The blacksmith stepped inside the stone point of the spear and landed a right hook on the spearman’s jaw.  That one act set everyone free.  Suddenly fists were being thrown everywhere and the scene dissolved into mayhem.

“Gibberish.  Why can’t you speak sense?”  They heard the old man shout even as Boston shouted louder.

“This way.  Hurry.”

The travelers followed Boston, and she followed the man who had signaled to her.  She had no idea what that man wanted, but he led them away from the ever-widening circle of violence.

The last they heard from the big old man was, “You must do what I say.  I am god!”  Then a fist went into the old man’s mouth while the travelers, with no real injuries, managed to break free.  The man they followed led them quickly up the tower hill until they were above the mayhem.

“I am Peleg,” the man said, once they could slow to speak.  “My family is safe.  Come.”  He led them around the base of the hill to where the forest grew up to the back of the rise.

“Peleg?”  Lockhart looked at Doctor Procter and then back at Mingus.

“One of the good guys,” Mingus assured him.

“So why are you helping us?” Lockhart finished his question for the man.

“Because you don’t belong to Nimrod.  You are strangers and deserve no part in the madness that is breaking out everywhere.”

“But what is going on?” Alexis was the one who asked.

They came to the trees and Peleg whistled before he turned to answer.  “Nimrod has told us there is no God.  He has taken the place of God and played on the fears of the people.  He says this monstrous tower of his will be our lasting memorial in case the flood comes again and we are all swept away.”

“But you don’t believe that.”

“No.  Some few of us have not forgotten.”  As he spoke, young men, women and children came out from among the trees to stand beside him.  “We remember the source of all, and the rainbow pledge.  Many people have already escaped, but sadly they have taken to the worship of the powers in this earth.”

“But that was madness back there,” Boston took up the cause.  “I can still hear the screaming and fighting and dying.  Why?”

“Because the people finally realized if Nimrod can be a god, so can they.  They are all being their own god.”

Lieutenant Harper got it.  “And when everyone is their own god, everything becomes relative.  Then even the words you speak mean whatever you want them to mean, whether anyone else understands them or not, it doesn’t matter.”

“So the gibberish.”  Alexis stepped up and took her husband’s arm.

“What a nimrod.  What a maroon.  Yuck, yuck.”  Lockhart smiled.  To Boston’s curious look he simply added, “Just something from my youth.”  Oh.  She curved her lips but made no sound.

“Our way lies along the edge of the trees.  My family is reluctant to venture into the forest.”

“Our way?”  Lincoln asked, and Doctor Procter pointed into the deep woods.

“Thank you.”  Lockhart thought to say it.

“Go with God.”  Peleg responded, and he and his family began to move off the plains.

“Humans.”  Mingus shook his head.  “It is all gibberish if you ask me.”  He started into the woods, and everyone became obliged to follow.  They did not get far, though, before Doctor Procter shouted.

“No.”  He spun around, ran toward the hill.  He began to climb.  He ran elf fast, or half-elf fast, but because of his age, it did not take long for the others to catch up.

“What is it?”  Captain Decker asked.

“He will not leave until he sees the Kairos,” Mingus answered for the half-elf.  “And on second thought, I suppose I agree with him.”  They did not have to look far.  A child, rather, two children sat in the shadow of the tower, joined not along one whole side as in the drawing on the Ark, but only at the wrists.  He had no left hand and she had no right.  They sat in the dirt, turned away from the madness going on across the plains below.  They could not have been older than five or six, and they were crying.